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Roger M. Wakimoto, Zachary Wienhoff, Howard B. Bluestein, and Dylan Reif

Abstract

Polarimetric measurements recorded by a mobile X-band radar are combined with photographs of the Dodge City, Kansas, tornado to quantitatively document the evolving debris cloud. An inner annulus or tube of high radar reflectivity encircled the tornado at low levels. A column of low cross-correlation coefficient ρ hv was centered on the funnel cloud during the early stage of the tornado’s life cycle. In addition, two areas of low ρ hv were located near the inner annulus of high radar reflectivity and were hypothesized to be regions of high debris loading that have been reproduced in simulations of lofted debris. Another column of low ρ hv was a result of strong wind speeds that were progressively lofting small debris and dust as inflow rotated around and within the weak echo notch of the hook echo. A column of negative differential reflectivity Z DR was also centered on the tornado and was hypothesized to result from common debris alignment. The polarimetric structure undergoes a dramatic transition when the debris cloud was prominent and enveloped most of the funnel cloud. The weak echo column (WEC) began to fill at lower levels as large amounts of debris were lofted into the circulation. The axis of minimum ρ hv shifted to a radius just beyond the funnel cloud. A column of positive Z DR was collocated with the funnel surrounded by negative Z DR. The negative Z DR and low ρ hv within the debris cloud were likely the result of some common debris alignment from wheat stems. The positive Z DR within the funnel signified the presence of a few hydrometeors.

Open access
Dylan W. Reif, Howard B. Bluestein, Tammy M. Weckwerth, Zachary B. Wienhoff, and Manda B. Chasteen

Abstract

The maximum upward vertical velocity at the leading edge of a density current is commonly <10 m s−1. Studies of the vertical velocity, however, are relatively few, in part owing to the dearth of high-spatiotemporal-resolution observations. During the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) field project, a mobile Doppler lidar measured a maximum vertical velocity of 13 m s−1 at the leading edge of a density current created by a mesoscale convective system during the night of 15 July 2015. Two other vertically pointing instruments recorded 8 m s−1 vertical velocities at the leading edge of the density current on the same night. This study describes the structure of the density current and attempts to estimate the maximum vertical velocity at their leading edges using the following properties: the density current depth, the slope of its head, and its perturbation potential temperature. The method is then be applied to estimate the maximum vertical velocity at the leading edge of density currents using idealized numerical simulations conducted in neutral and stable atmospheres with resting base states and in neutral and stable atmospheres with vertical wind shear. After testing this method on idealized simulations, this method is then used to estimate the vertical velocity at the leading edge of density currents documented in several previous studies. It was found that the maximum vertical velocity can be estimated to within 10%–15% of the observed or simulated maximum vertical velocity and indirectly accounts for parameters including environmental wind shear and static stability.

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Yu-Chieng Liou, Howard B. Bluestein, Michael M. French, and Zachary B. Wienhoff

Abstract

A three-dimensional data assimilation (3DVar) least squares–type single-Doppler velocity retrieval (SDVR) algorithm is utilized to retrieve the wind field of a tornadic supercell using data collected by a mobile, phased-array, Doppler radar [Mobile Weather Radar (MWR) 05XP] with very high temporal resolution (6 s). It is found that the cyclonic circulation in the hook-echo region can be successfully recovered by the SDVR algorithm. The quality of the SDVR analyses is evaluated by dual-Doppler syntheses using data collected by two mobile Doppler radars [Doppler on Wheels 6 and 7 (DOW6 and DOW7, respectively)]. A comparison between the SDVR analyses and dual-Doppler syntheses confirms the conclusion reached by an earlier theoretical analysis that because of the temporally discrete nature of the radar data, the wind speed retrieved by single-Doppler radar is always underestimated, and this underestimate occurs more significantly for the azimuthal (crossbeam) wind component than for the radial (along beam) component. However, the underestimate can be mitigated by increasing the radar data temporal resolution. When the radar data are collected at a sufficiently high rate, the azimuthal wind component may be overestimated. Even with data from a rapid scan, phased-array, Doppler radar, our study indicates that it is still necessary to calculate the SDVR in an optimal moving frame of reference. Finally, the SDVR algorithm’s robustness is demonstrated. Even with a temporal resolution (2 min) much lower than that of the phased-array radar, the cyclonic flow structure in the hook-echo region can still be retrieved through SDVR using data observed by DOW6 or DOW7, although a difference in the retrieved fields does exist. A further analysis indicates that this difference is caused by the location of the radars.

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Jeffrey C. Snyder, Howard B. Bluestein, Zachary B. Wienhoff, Charles M. Kuster, and Dylan W. Reif

Abstract

Tornadic supercells moved across parts of Oklahoma on the afternoon and evening of 9 May 2016. One such supercell, while producing a long-lived tornado, was observed by nearby WSR-88D radars to contain a strong anticyclonic velocity couplet on the lowest elevation angle. This couplet was located in a very atypical position relative to the ongoing cyclonic tornado and to the supercell’s updraft. A storm survey team identified damage near where this couplet occurred, and, in the absence of evidence refuting otherwise, the damage was thought to have been produced by an anticyclonic tornado. However, such a tornado was not seen in near-ground, high-resolution radar data from a much closer, rapid-scan, mobile radar. Rather, an elongated velocity couplet was observed only at higher elevation angles at altitudes similar to those at which the WSR-88D radars observed the strong couplet. This paper examines observations from two WSR-88D radars and a mobile radar from which it is argued that the anticyclonic couplet (and a similar one ~10 min later) were actually quasi-horizontal vortices centered ~1–1.5 km AGL. The benefits of having data from a radar much closer to the convective storm being sampled (e.g., better spatial resolution and near-ground data coverage) and providing more rapid volume updates are readily apparent. An analysis of these additional radar data provides strong, but not irrefutable, evidence that the anticyclonic tornado that may be inferred from WSR-88D data did not exist; consequently, upon discussions with the National Weather Service, it was not included in Storm Data.

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Howard B. Bluestein, Daniel T. Lindsey, Daniel Bikos, Dylan W. Reif, and Zachary B. Wienhoff

Abstract

This is a study of a tornadic supercell in Kansas on 14 May 2018 in which data of relatively high spatiotemporal resolution from a mobile, polarimetric, X-band, Doppler radar were integrated with GOES-16 geosynchronous satellite imagery, and with fixed-site, surveillance, S-band polarimetric Doppler radar data. The data-collection period spanned the early life of the storm from when it was just a series of ordinary cells, with relatively low cloud tops, through its evolution into a supercell with much higher cloud tops, continuing through the formation and dissipation of a brief tornado, and ending after the supercell came to a stop and reversed direction, produced another tornado, and collided with a quasi-linear convective system. The main goal of this study was to examine the relationship between the overshooting tops and radar observed features prior to and during tornadogenesis. The highest radar echo top was displaced about 10 km, mainly to the north or northeast of the main updraft and cloud top, from the supercell phase through the first tornado phase of the supercell phase, after which the updraft and the cloud top became more closely located and then jumped ahead; this behavior is consistent with what would be expected during cyclic mesocyclogenesis. The change in direction of the supercell later on occurred while the nocturnal low-level jet was intensifying. No relationship was apparent between changes in the highest cloud-top height and tornadogenesis, but changes in cloud-top heights (rapid increases and rapid decreases) were related to two phases in multicell evolution and to supercell formation.

Free access
Roger M. Wakimoto, Zachary Wienhoff, Howard B. Bluestein, David J. Bodine, and James M. Kurdzo

Abstract

A detailed damage survey is combined with high-resolution mobile, rapid-scanning X-band polarimetric radar data collected on the Shawnee, Oklahoma, tornado of 19 May 2013. The focus of this study is the radar data collected during a period when the tornado was producing damage rated EF3. Vertical profiles of mobile radar data, centered on the tornado, revealed that the radar reflectivity was approximately uniform with height and increased in magnitude as more debris was lofted. There was a large decrease in both the cross-correlation coefficient (ρ hv) and differential radar reflectivity (Z DR) immediately after the tornado exited the damaged area rated EF3. Low ρ hv and Z DR occurred near the surface where debris loading was the greatest. The 10th percentile of ρ hv decreased markedly after large amounts of debris were lofted after the tornado leveled a number of structures. Subsequently, ρ hv quickly recovered to higher values. This recovery suggests that the largest debris had been centrifuged or fallen out whereas light debris remained or continued to be lofted. Range–height profiles of the dual-Doppler analyses that were azimuthally averaged around the tornado revealed a zone of maximum radial convergence at a smaller radius relative to the leading edge of lofted debris. Low-level inflow into the tornado encountering a positive bias in the tornado-relative radial velocities could explain the existence of the zone. The vertical structure of the convergence zone was shown for the first time.

Open access
Zachary B. Wienhoff, Howard B. Bluestein, Dylan W. Reif, Roger M. Wakimoto, Louis J. Wicker, and James M. Kurdzo

Abstract

On 24 May 2016, a supercell that produced 13 tornadoes near Dodge City, Kansas, was documented by a rapid-scanning, X-band, polarimetric, Doppler radar (RaXPol). The anomalous nature of this storm, particularly the significant deviations in storm motion from the mean flow and number of tornadoes produced, is examined and discussed. RaXPol observed nine tornadoes with peak radar-derived intensities (ΔV max) and durations ranging from weak (~60 m s−1) and short lived (<30 s) to intense (>150 m s−1) and long lived (>25 min). This case builds on previous studies of tornado debris signature (TDS) evolution with continuous near-surface sampling of multiple strong tornadoes. The TDS sizes increased as the tornadoes intensified but lacked direct correspondence to tornado intensity otherwise. The most significant growth of the TDS in both cases was linked to two substantial rear-flank-downdraft surges and subsequent debris ejections, resulting in growth of the TDSs to more than 3 times their original sizes. The TDS was also observed to continue its growth as the tornadoes decayed and lofted debris fell back to the surface. The TDS size and polarimetric composition were also found to correspond closely to the underlying surface cover, which resulted in reductions in Z DR in wheat fields and growth of the TDS in terraced dirt fields as a result of ground scouring. TDS growth with respect to tornado vortex tilt is also discussed.

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Howard B. Bluestein, Zachary B. Wienhoff, David D. Turner, Dylan W. Reif, Jeffrey C. Snyder, Kyle J. Thiem, and Jana B. Houser

Abstract

The objectives of this study are to determine the finescale characteristics of the wind and temperature fields associated with a prefrontal wind-shift line and to contrast them with those associated with a strong cold front. Data from a mobile, polarimetric, X-band, Doppler radar and from a surveillance S-band radar, temperature profiles retrieved from a thermodynamic sounder, and surface observations from the Oklahoma Mesonet are used to analyze a prefrontal wind-shift line in Oklahoma on 11 November 2013. Data from the same mobile radar and the Oklahoma Mesonet are used to identify the finescale characteristics of the wind field associated with a strong surface cold front in Oklahoma on 9 April 2013. It is shown that the prefrontal wind-shift line has a kinematic and thermodynamic structure similar to that of an intrusion (elevated density current), while the cold front has a kinematic structure similar to that of a classic density current. Other characteristics of the prefrontal wind-shift line and front are also discussed. Evidence of waves generated at the leading edge of the prefrontal wind-shift line is presented.

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Zachary B. Wienhoff, Howard B. Bluestein, Louis J. Wicker, Jeffrey C. Snyder, Alan Shapiro, Corey K. Potvin, Jana B. Houser, and Dylan W. Reif

Abstract

In many instances, synchronization of Doppler radar data among multiple platforms for multiple-Doppler analysis is challenging. This study describes the production of dual-Doppler wind analyses from several case studies using data from a rapid-scanning, X-band, polarimetric, Doppler radar—the RaXPol radar—and data from nearby WSR-88Ds. Of particular interest is mitigating difficulties related to the drastic differences in scanning rates of the two radars. To account for differences in temporal resolution, a variational reflectivity tracking scheme [a spatially variable advection correction technique (SVAC)] has been employed to interpolate (in a Lagrangian sense) the coarser temporal resolution data (WSR-88D) to the times of the RaXPol volume scans. The RaXPol data and temporally interpolated WSR-88D data are then used to create quasi–rapid scan dual-Doppler analyses. This study focuses on the application of the SVAC technique to WSR-88D data to create dual-Doppler analyses of three tornadic supercells: the 19 May 2013 Edmond–Carney and Norman–Shawnee, Oklahoma, storms and the 24 May 2016 Dodge City, Kansas, storm. Results of the dual-Doppler analyses are briefly examined, including observations of the Z DR columns as a proxy for updrafts. Potential improvements to this technique are also discussed.

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Katherine E. McKeown, Michael M. French, Kristofer S. Tuftedal, Darrel M. Kingfield, Howard B. Bluestein, Dylan W. Reif, and Zachary B. Wienhoff

Abstract

Rapid-scan polarimetric data analysis of the dissipation of a likely violent supercell tornado that struck near Sulphur, Oklahoma, on 9 May 2016 is presented. The Rapid X-band Polarimetric Radar was used to obtain data of the tornado at the end of its mature phase and during its entire dissipation phase. The analysis is presented in two parts: dissipation characteristics of the tornadic vortex signature (TVS) associated with the tornado and storm-scale polarimetric features that may be related to processes contributing to tornado dissipation. The TVS exhibited near-surface radial velocities exceeding 100 m s−1 multiple times at the end of its mature phase, and then underwent a two-phased dissipation. Initially, decreases in near-surface intensity occurred rapidly over a ~5-min period followed by a slower decline in intensity that lasted an additional ~12 min. The dissipation of the TVS in time and height in the lowest 2 km above radar level and oscillatory storm-relative motion of the TVS also are discussed. Using polarimetric data, a well-defined low reflectivity ribbon is investigated for its vertical development, evolution, and relationship to the large tornadic debris signature (TDS) collocated with the TVS. The progression of the TDS during dissipation also is discussed with a focus on the presence of several bands of reduced copolar correlation coefficient that extend away from the main TDS and the eventual erosion of the TDS as the tornado dissipated. Finally, TVS and polarimetric data are combined to argue for the importance of a possible internal rear-flank downdraft momentum surge in contributing to the initial rapid dissipation of the tornado.

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